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How can my partner prepare for my birth?

Is my partner truly prepared to help me in childbirth?

Do a quick google or amazon search on “childbirth preparation” you will get a list of results that are overwhelmingly geared towards you, the pregnant person. You might notice that there are very few books written that would help prepare your partner for childbirth.

Why is this a problem for me?

How you are cared for and supported during childbirth affects how you give birth and how you feel about it. How you feel about your birth experience can also influence how you feel about your own ability in being a mother as well as affect your chance of developing postpartum depression and anxiety. Knowing this, it’s pretty clear that ongoing emotional and physical support during the very transformative experience of birth is of the utmost importance.

What about a doula?

A doula is a person who provides continuous and on-going emotional, physical and informational support for the labouring person. It has been shown that doulas help to reduce the rates of interventions, including epidural use and c-sections and help to increase reported satisfaction in birth experience. In other words, having a doula increases the chance of having HEALTHY AND HAPPY parent and baby.

But what if I can’t have a doula?

Not everyone can access a doula. Even though having doulas would actually reduce health costs, increase positive outcomes and would be a good basic addition to any healthcare system, hiring a doula is not possible for everyone.

At the time of this writing, COVID-19 virus (simply referred to as coronavirus) is emerging as a global and local public health concern that is resulting in changes in hospital policies. Hospitals are restricting the number of people who can attend births, in some cases reducing it to only one person, usually just your partner. As a doula, when I attend births, the more support the birther can receive, the better their experience. Sometimes, in addition to their partner and me (their doula), their own mother and/ or a friend will be there too. So this change in policy can greatly impact your birth experience and well-being.

How should my partner best prepare to support me? 

Here are some tips to help your partner be your “doula”

  1. Communication! Be honest about your fears around childbirth and be honest about your partner’s strengths and weaknesses in handling high stress situations. Play up those strengths and how they can be best used to help you during labour and childbirth

Take a high quality prenatal class that focuses on teaching techniques and skills that your partner can use to help you during labour and childbirth. We at Your Downtown Doula offer HypnoBirthing classes for a comprehensive approach to help you feel relaxed and confident during childbirth and labour.

Labour at home for as long as possible. If the concerns around infection still exist at the time of your childbirth, then reducing your hospital stay is a good idea. Your partner can help you with relaxation, help distract you, do massage and attend to your basic needs. Doing most of your labouring at home can also reduce unnecessary interventions.

A great book for partners is Penny Simkin’s The Birth Partner. It is specific to doulas and partners and contains very comprehensive information.

Don’t have time to read a 374 page text book or attend a 5 week class? We have the perfect solution:

The Your Downtown Doula Academy Prepared Partners Course is perfect for pregnant moms who want to fully prepare their partners to become their own doula without going to more classes, reading a thick textbook or just “winging it”.

Because we know you're scared, and we want to support you in having the best possible birth,

 we are offering 30% off this course with the promo code SUPPORT at check out.

This offer will be available until the current COVID-19 crisis is over.

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Paced Bottle Feeding

What is paced bottle feeding and why should you care? 

As a breastfeeding advocate, I am very much in favor of babies breastfeeding anywhere and all the time. But, it would be naive of me to think that this is realistic for every breastfeeding dyad. Lots of families choose to bottle feed some of the time and breastfeed other times. How you breastfeed a bottle fed baby matters, though. It's all too common that I see families soon after they've introduced a bottle because their baby has started becoming fussy at the breast or is refusing to breastfeed altogether. This is where paced bottle feeding comes in.

Paced bottle feeding is a technique that allows the baby to have much more control over the flow of the feed, and also mimics the flow of milk from the breast alot better. Babies don't get nipple confusion- they get flow preference. If you tip a bottle upside down you'll notice that milk starts to drip out, bottles are fast and consistent. Milk flow from the breast ebbs and flows depending on whether you're having a letdown or not. In fact, for parts of a breastfeed babies are getting no milk at all. Babies are smart and often develop a preference for the easier and faster flowing bottle.

Benefits of Paced Bottle Feeding

  • Baby has contol over how much they eat, so you aren't at risk of over feeding or under feeding them
  • Less chance of overfeeding often leads to less fussy babies because they aren't uncomfortable from having a distended stomach
  • Easier time going back and forth from breast to bottle
  • Although this has not been studied, because baby is controlling their intake this should help preserve the mechanisms in breastfeeding that prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life


Are you planning on breastfeeding? Get started out right with our Free Breastfeeding Basics Guide. Grab it here!

How to do it

Check out the video below for a how to guide on paced bottle feeding.


Key points

  • Start the feeding with baby sucking on an empty nipple for a few seconds, this is expecially important if you've noticed your baby starting to get fussy at the breast
  • Keep the nipple 50% full of milk so that they baby can access it by sucking but it doesn't just pour into their mouths
  • Give your baby periodic breaks when you tip the bottle down so there is no milk available
  • You'll know it's going well if you see your baby taking pauses where they aren't sucking at all
  • Let your baby tell you when they are done and don't force them to finish what is in the bottle
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Should I take a prenatal class?

Yes, yes, resounding yes. You are setting yourself up for failure if you don’t take a prenatal class.  I know that sounds harsh, but this is too important of a topic to tiptoe around. 

I know what you’re thinking: “well of course you would say that, you teach prenatal classes!”  True! But, why do I teach them? Because I truly believe they are necessary. They are the #1, (yes, NUMBER 1) factor that leads to improved birther satisfaction surrounding birth.  I’d argue that how satisfied you are with your birth experience is pretty important. And yes, I make money teaching them, but if you keep scrolling you will find a link to a free online class- this isn’t about financial gains for me. Here’s why this really matters:

1 in 4 birthers in the UK and 1 in 3 in the US, describe their birth as traumatic. (Unfortunately, we don’t have stats in Canada). Not just hard, not just tiring, long or painful, but traumatic.  The birth of your baby should not be a traumatic experience. Even if there are unexpected circumstances, you should not come away from your birth feeling traumatized. It has always been my goal to reduce this statistic. 

It honestly shocked me when at a recent conference, the presenter reported that only about 50% of pregnant families in the GTA take prenatal classes.  But, I understand why this happens. 

 

1. You’ve been told childbirth is natural, unpredictable and the doctor will tell you what to do

All of this is true. But, in a good prenatal class you learn techniques that help you cope with the marathon that labour can be.  Being prepared makes things easier to cope with, even when unexpected things arise. Every birther is an individual and really truly does have their own unique labour. But, there is a benefit to knowing what to expect.  Even explorers had a compass in unknown lands. Your doctor is definitely an important resource but they are usually absent until you are ready to birth your baby. Unless there are complications. Your birth is more likely to be normal than not, which means you do not have the constant support and reassurance you may be hoping for. It’s also likely that many of the recommendations from your nurses and even your OB will not be evidence based. Many things are just hospital policy. On average it takes about 20 years (yup) for policy to catch up to the evidence. In our medical system it is up to you, as the patient, to come armed with knowledge, questions and the ability to advocate for yourself. 

2. Hospital classes are embarrassingly awkward, slow and you don’t have the time to commit to the hours they ask.

And maybe, you don’t want to sit in a group environment where people are asking questions that are not relevant to you, or you don’t want to hear them talk endlessly about their stories - you want the information quick and efficient and tailored to you.

I get it, you have all the access to all the information you could ever dream of on the internet. However, it takes time to filter all of it and do you know what to look for? As much as I’m totally behind Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting - you can definitely teach yourself without paying big bucks. But, it is way easier for someone to present it to you concisely, be able to answer your questions and find answers for you. Plus, do you really want to sort through every birth vlog out there to find relevant and accurate information?  If group classes and their group schedules don’t work for you - consider online courses or private courses. Personally, most of the classes I teach nowadays are private. Both the client and I seem to prefer this. I’m able to individualize information and they have their preferred times and the convenience of the class coming to them. 

Nervous about labour? You don't have to be! Get our FREE Top 5 Tips for Loving your Birth here!

3. Birth has basically been a terrifying mystery your whole life.

I remember the initial joy I had about learning about birth in medical school.  I finally understood what goes on, from implantation to birth. It resonated with me, my intuition, it was normal - I didn’t have to be afraid of it.  My education empowered me. However, the joy was quickly followed by frustration. Why did it take a medical degree to learn this, why didn’t I know in my prime “child bearing age” anything about birth outside of the dramatized ER births on television. Most people are very afraid of giving birth, and don’t really want to think about it. But knowledge truly is power. The more you know, the less you will be afraid. 

Ok, so prenatal classes are essential. How do you figure out which class to take? Not all classes are equal - do your research - what matters to you? Do you just need the basic information? Do you want as many tips and tricks as you can get?  Most cities offer FREE ONLINE courses, see Toronto’s : https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/children-parenting/pregnancy-and-parenting/pregnancy/during-pregnancy/prenatal-programs/welcome-to-parenting/

Yes, that’s right, I'd rather you take ANY prenatal class, even if it’s not mine. 

Also, prenatal education doesn’t just focus on birth but on breastfeeding and post-natal care too.  Labour is hard but it ends, breastfeeding, if you chose to, is ongoing - it helps to get a head start.  I want families to feel empowered, feel confident, feel calm and feel supported. Getting educated and having resources helps.  I teach classes because I LOVE sharing all the wonderful, interesting, mind-blowing things that your body does in labour and how you can help it do its job easier.  

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My top prenatal reads

THERE ARE MILLIONS OF BOOKS OUT THERE ON PREGNANCY AND BIRTH. IT CAN BE HARD TO DECIDE WHICH ONES TO READ. HERE IS A LIST OF MY TOP 3 FAVOURITE ONES, SHORT AND SWEET BUT PACKED WITH GREAT INFORMATION, BECAUSE WHO HAS TIME TO READ A MILLION BOOKS!

1) MAGICAL BEGINNINGS, ENCHANTED LIVES:

A HOLISTIC GUIDE TO PREGNANCY AND CHILDBIRTH
By: Deepak Chopra M.D.
Available on Amazon for about $20

Why I love it: This book combines the latest in evidence based medicine and the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine in a way that only Deepak Chopra can. Providing a holistic and spiritual approach to pregnancy and childbirth, including simple exercises you can do in your home to help you feel more connected and aware during all stages of your pregnancy and 4th trimester.


2) INA MAY’S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH

By: Ina May Gaskin
Available on Amazon for about $20

Why I love it: Ina May Gaskin is single-handedly responsible for reviving the midwifery movement in North America, with more than 30 years of experience she is a veritable guru. This book starts with a fantastic collection of birth stories written by women from every walk of life that really help to normalize the whole process of birth and inspire incredible confidence in what a woman’s body can do. The second half of the book is full of information from Ina May on everything from inducing labour to pain management to orgasmic birth, all with an emphasis on restoring woman’s faith in their ability to navigate natural childbirth.

3) THE NATURAL PREGNANCY BOOK:
YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO A SAFE, ORGANIC PREGNANCY
AND CHILDBIRTH WITH HERBS, NUTRITION AND OTHER
HOLISITIC CHOICES 
By: Aviva Romm M.D.
Available on Amazon for about $20

Why I love it: As an MD with many years of experience in alternative medicine, Aviva Romm is staple in the field of holistic women’s health. This book provides a knowledgeable introduction to the world of natural remedies during pregnancy.

AND AS A BONUS, MY FAVOURITE BOOK FOR BIRTH PARTNERS

THE BIRTH PARTNER: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH
FOR DADS, DOULAS, AND ALL OTHER LABOR COMPANIONS
By: Penny Simkin
Available on Amazon for about $20

Why I love it: I consider this book to be an essential read for anyone who is attending your birth. It covers every topic from how to prepare for labour right up to newborn care, in a wonderfully inclusive way. It provides invaluable information on every possible birth path including medical interventions so that you and your partner are in the know before you need to make decisions. The also has pages marked for quick reference, so it’s great to have on hand during that birth itself.

Are you preparing for your best possible birth? Keep up to date on all things pregnancy, birth and baby! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

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Herbal Medicines during pregnancy

 

There is a lot of wisdom in traditional herbal medicine, but with health food store selling more products than most people know what to do with, it’s hard to know what to take. This is why, if you are using herbal products, it’s important to have a practitioner, like a Naturopathic Doctor, who is knowledgeable and who is familiar with what is safe during pregnancy. Here, we’ve provided you with some good information and a place to start, but it doesn’t replace individualized medical advise.

Herbs that you may want to keep on hand during your pregnancy

Red Raspberry leaf

Red Raspberry leaf

Why? Nutritive- nutrient dense, high in vitamins and minerals, including iron, calcium and magnesium; uterine tonic- helps prepare the uterus for labour

How? Drink as a tea, 2-3 cups/day

When? Last trimester of pregnancy to help get your body ready for labour

Research: Shortens labour and lead to fewer interventions

Traditional wisdom: Speeds childbirth

Stinging Nettle Leaf

Stinging Nettle Leaf

Why? Nutritive tonic, also high in vitamins and minerals, including chlorophyll, vitamin A, C, D and K, and iron; contains protein, helps to bring in mother’s milk, anti-inflammatory

How? Combine with red raspberry leaf to drink as a tea

When? Can be consumed safely throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding

Research: no clinical trials, but experiential and observational evidence show benefit in anemia, preventing postpartum hemorrhage and preeclampsia

Traditional wisdom: Pregnancy tonic, improves kidney function, prevents postpartum hemorrhage, reduces hemorrhoids, increases milk supply

Cranberry

Cranberry

Why? Urinary antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, preventing and treating urinary tract infections by blocking the ability of E. coli to stick to the lining of the bladder

How? As an extract in capsules form or as juice (not cranberry cocktail), 1-2 cups/day for preventing UTI, consider capsules for an active UTI

When? Good to have on hand for the first signs of a UTI/bladder infection, combine with increased fluid intake to help flush the urinary tract.**If symptoms don’t resolve in 1-2 days, or if you develop severe symptoms (fever, low back ache, visible blood in urine) contact your health care provider immediately.

Research: Preventing and treating UTI, safe for use in pregnancy

Traditional wisdom: Preventing and treating UTI

Ginger

Ginger

Why? Antiemetic, helps with morning sickness, anti-inflammatory, carminative- soothes pain from gas/bloating

How? Fresh or dried root steeped in hot water, drink as a tea 1-2 cups/day

When? If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting in pregnancy. Caution with doses higher than 2 g/day as this is traditionally considered an emmenagogue (brings on your period).**If you are having very severe or frequent vomiting, contact your health care provider

Research: very strong evidence in favor of use in nausea and vomiting in pregnancy

Traditional wisdom: warming tonic, useful in nausea and vomiting in pregnancy

Chamomile

Chamomile

Why? Promotes relaxation, relaxes the nervous system, relaxes the smooth muscles of the digestive system, soothes pain from gas/bloating, anti-inflammator

How? Drink 1-2 cups as a tea, especially soothing in the evening

When? Can be consumed throughout pregnancy, at any time but especially if you are feeling nervous or anxious**Caution with this herb if you have a ragweed allergy, they belong to the same family of plants

Research: sedating, sleep inducing, some evidence in treating mild anxiety, decreases gas and soothes digestive spasms

Traditional wisdom: nervousness, muscle spasms, gas and colic

Are you preparing for your best possible birth? Keep up to date on all things pregnancy, birth and baby! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

Herbs to take and ones to avoid during pregnancy

Safe Herbs

  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Senna (Cassia senna)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Ginseng (Korean) (Panax ginseng)
  • Raspberry Leaf (Rubus ideaus)
  • Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)
  • Bilberry Fruit (Vaccinium myrtillus)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Despite these herbs being listed as safe, it is important that you advise your medical practitioners regarding any supplements that you are taking. These herbs can have other adverse effects such as raising blood pressure that may be important in your individual case. This list may change based on ongoing research and safety studies.

Unsafe Herbs

  • Dong quai (Angelica sinesis)
  • Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  • Arnica (Arnica montana)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
  • Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
  • Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
  • Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus)
  • Guggul (Commiphora mukul)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis)
  • Chaparral (Larrea tridentate)
  • Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus)
  • Bugleweed (Lycopus virginicus)
  • Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Boldo (Penmus boldus)
  • Poke root (phytolacca Americana or Phytolacca decandra)
  • Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia erythrina)
  • Pasque flower (Pulsatilla spp)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Pau d’arco (Tebebuia avellanedae)
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Thuja (Thuja accidentalis)
  • Tylophora (Tylophora indica or Tylophora asthmatica)
  • Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

Please do not take any of these herbs unless prescribed by a licensed practitioner that will carefully monitor your health and the health of your baby. This list may change based on ongoing research and safety studies.

This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical advice.

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VBAC is a safe option

First time parents usually have tons of questions, fears and concerns; with second and third children prenatal visits tend to go a lot quicker! One of the biggest hurdles families have the second time around is for parents who have had previous C-sections.

I get so many families questioning the safety of a vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC). So many times parents have heard of the risks without learning the benefits.

This is one of those places where informed consent falls short. For any intervention or procedure care providers should be providing families the risks, benefits and alternatives. With VBAC, I find that many parents are being presented with outdated information.

Even worse, sometimes families are just told that they should have a C-section without being given more information.

I find this incredibly frustrating.

Are you preparing for your best possible birth? Keep up to date on all things pregnancy, birth and baby! Sign up for our monthly newsletter.

VBAC is a completely safe option for most families. Almost every parent should at least be given the opportunity to try for one.

The fear with VBAC usually has to do with uterine rupture. This used to be a serious concern, because of the type of incisions used and how the incisions were stitched. These aren’t used any longer. Now, the risk of uterine rupture is only between 0.4% and 0.9%.

That is less than one percent!

That is a very small risk.

Not to mention that there are risks associated with having multiple C-sections. These include higher risks of infection, longer recovery and potential complications for baby.

Parents tend to have better experiences and feel more satisfied with their birth when able to have a VBAC. They are also more likely to successfully breastfeed.

If you want more info on all the up to date research on VBAC, you can check out this article.

As a doula, making sure my clients have an empowering birth experience is my top priority. 

Empowered means having all the available information. Empowered means parents making informed choices for themselves and for their families.

This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.

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Breastfeeding 101

 

Breastfeeding 101

Many new parents assume that breastfeeding is instinctive. This might have been true once, when children saw their mothers and aunts and friends of the family feeding their babies regularly and in public. Now, breastfeeding is stigmatized and parents are made to cover up or move to a less visible location. Not only is this a terrible experience for new parents, it also means that many have no idea where to start when it comes to breastfeeding. So, let’s start with some basic baby facts and move on from there.

Things to remember about breastfeeding baby

The breast crawl: On their own, your newborn baby will crawl to the breast and begin to root. This is a completely natural process and is guided by your baby’s sense of smell. Your baby will do this in their own time and there is no need to rush.

Early Skin to Skin: The best way to ensure a smooth transition to breastfeeding is to allow immediate skin to skin contact between you and your baby. This will give your baby the opportunity to calm their nervous system, bond with you and get hungry!

Know your cues: Your baby will give you lots of cues to tell you they are hungry before they start to cry. These could include bringing their hands to their face, making sucking motions with their mouth or moving their tongue.

The magic of colostrum: In the first few days your body makes an ultra-nutritious substance called colostrum. It is more dense than breastmilk so you will produce less of it, this is totally ok! Your milk will naturally come in over the course of the next few days.

Your new baby has a tiny tummy: Newborns have small stomachs, with very little space, they fill up quickly and empty quickly. This means that in the first few days your baby will eat very frequently! Don’t worry, in a few days the feedings will spread out.

No “right” feeding schedule: Feed your baby when they show signs of being hungry, this could be every 30 minutes or every 3 hours. A newborn infant will not cry looking for comfort.

Breastfeeding basics

Just like there is no “right” feeding schedule, there is no “right” position in which to feed your baby. The most important this is that you are comfortable and your baby’s latch is good. But, there are some guiding principles that you can use to ensure that both of these things happen.

A Really Good Latch

  • Support your baby at the base of their head and shoulders to allow their head to gently tilt back (think the position you would put your head in to chug a drink)
  • Wait until your baby has a wide open mouth to try to latch, you can encourage them to do this by running your nipple along their upper lip
  • Your nipple should be aimed at the back roof of your baby’s mouth
  • Lead your baby to your breast, not the other way around
  • The latch should be asymmetric, which means your baby’s nose should be pointing away from your breast and their chin should be in towards your breast and more of your areola should be exposed on the top of your baby’s mouth than underneath it
  • There should be no pain
  • Allow your baby to come off the breast on their own
  • Offer the other side once they come off one breast, or if they are fussy at one breast, you can switch sides as much as needed and don’t need to “finish” at one breast in order to start the other one

Really Good Drinking

It’s important to learn the difference between sucking and drinking. This will come more easily with practice, but in essence you are looking for frequent pauses in their chin as they let their mouths fill with milk. Mouth open. Pause. Mouth close.

Barriers to breastfeeding

Many people struggle with breastfeeding, the two most important things to remember:

Your most important job is to feed your baby, however that looks. This doesn’t make you a bad parent

Certain perinatal procedures can make initiating breastfeeding more challenging. These procedures include the use of narcotic pain medication, IV fluids administered during labour and general anesthetic.

A poor latch can make breastfeeding painful and this makes it much more difficult. It may just be the mechanics of the latch or there may be an underlying issue such as a tongue tie or a lip tie, these can be diagnosed by your paediatrician or a lactation consultant. Remember that breastfeeding should not be painful.

External factors can also make breastfeeding difficult. Social pressures and feeling that you shouldn’t breastfeed in certain places may make you feel self-conscious. Remember that you are legally allowed to breastfeed anywhere that you are legally allowed to be. Returning to work can also cause stress. It is possible to work with employers to find you a place to pump and store milk while you are at work. In Ontario, employers are legally required to give you these things.

Start your breastfeeding journey off right with our FREE Breastfeeding Basics Handout. Grab it here!

What to do if you’re having trouble breastfeeding

If you are having issues, there are a few things you can do to trouble shoot. The first is to look at your latch, check out the info above, is your baby’s nose far away from your breast and your nipple deep in their mouth? See if you can adjust your latch and if that results in less pain and better drinking. If you are satisfied with your latch, and your still concerned that your baby isn’t getting enough, you can try using breast compressions as outlined below.

Finally, there is lots of help, lactation consultants are amazing at their jobs and there are many practicing in Toronto. If you gave birth at a hospital you may even have access to free breastfeeding clinics. You can also check out the International Breastfeeding Centre website for excellent videos and handouts to help you troubleshoot.

The biggest piece of advise I can give is not to wait. If you are having trouble, don’t suffer through it alone, there is lots of support.

Breast compressions

As mentioned, if you are having trouble getting your baby to drink well and you are satisfied that the latch is good, you may want to try using breast compressions. They can be used to increase the speed of milk flow. During a feeding you can use breast compressions when you notice your baby has stopped drinking and is mostly nibbling.

  • Hold your baby with one arm
  • With the other hand take hold of your breast, close to your chest wall and away from your baby’s mouth
  • Apply pressure and hold
  • Keep the pressure until your baby starts sucking/drinking again
  • Release the pressure if your baby stops drinking again
  • Repeat until your baby doesn’t drink even with the compressions

You may have to experiment with how these work best for you. The International Breastfeeding Centre has a great handout and videos on this too.

This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.

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What to bring to your birth

Whether you’re planning on giving birth at home, in a birth centre or at a hospital, it’s important to have all your supplies ready to go before hand. Here is a good place to start. Remember to pack your essentials together in advance of your due date so everything is in one place and easily accessible.

FOR ANY BIRTH:

  • At least 2 pairs of comfy clothing for yourself and your partner that you don’t mind getting dirty
  • If you have access to a birth pool, your partner may want to bring a bathing suit so they can join you
  • Comfy shoes for you and your partner
  • Clothes, diapers and receiving blanket for the baby
  • Peri-pads or overnight pads and comfortable underwear for after delivery
  • Camera, cellphone and appropriate chargers

IF YOU ARE PLANNING A HOSPITAL VISIT:

  • Your Health card and anything else you need to register if you’re are planning to go to a hospital or birth centre
  • Toothbrushes and tooth paste for you and your partner
  • A face cloth and hair brush to help you freshen up
  • A separate outfit to change into to go home
  • A properly installed car seat

Get our Top 5 Tips for LOVING Your Birth!

THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT THINK OF:

  • Snacks!
    Have a stash of yummy, nutritious, easy to eat snacks available such as granola bars, nuts/nut butter, and popsicles
  • A water bottle and/or coconut water, you can add lemon or a straw
  • Inspirational photos or mantras that you can easily put up around whatever room you’re in
  • Birth tools that may not be available at your location such as: birth ball, birth stool, TENS, Rebozo
  • Music and speakers, you may want to consider putting together a playlist in advance including meditations that you enjoy
  • Essential oil diffuser and your favourite scents

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Skin to skin care

Skin to skin contact is one of the things that makes me really pumped up. Babies do better when they are skin to skin with their parent, birthing persons do better when they are skin to skin with baby. Yet, it’s still really common place to see parents and baby separated following birth! So, let’s talk about the wonders of skin to skin. The more birthing persons who ask for it, the more it becomes the norm.

What is Skin to Skin?

Skin to Skin care: Continuous contact of a new parent and their baby skin to skin with only a diaper in between. Contact should be started within 30 minutes (preferably 10 minutes) of birth and continue as long as possible.

Kangaroo Mother Care:Often used in describing premie care, this involves continuous skin to skin contact as stated above, access to the nipple to promote exclusive breastfeeding and support for new parent and baby together. Leading experts in the field recommend 20 hours/day of skin to skin contact for all infants, but especially for premies.

Why skin to skin?

  • Helps your baby maintain their temperature better than an incubator
  • Baby maintains stable blood sugar
  • Baby is less stressed, cries less and painful procedures hurt less
  • Increases your chances of exclusively breastfeeding
  • Improves baby’s oxygenation
  • Earlier discharge from hospital
  • Fewer apneas
  • Better controlled heart rate
  • Baby is more alert and reactive
  • Better parent-baby relationship

These are impressive! Even more impressive, all of these are true in low birth weight, preterm infants [1]!

Planning on breastfeeding? Get started out right with our FREE Breastfeeding Basics Guide!

How can I get in on this?

Child with MummaUnfortunately, this is another instance where birthing persons have to advocate for themselves. Make sure your care provider and your doula know that you want immediate skin to skin with your baby. There are very few instances where you and baby actually need to be separated right after birth. So, state clearly that you want your little one placed on your chest immediately (this goes for C-sections too!).

Ask if recommended procedures can be done skin to skin, chances are they can! APGAR assessments, heal pricks, vitamin K shots and eye ointment- all of these can be done skin to skin. Even a CPAP and suctioning can be done this way.

Ask your care provider to wait to weigh your baby. At least, wait until after the two of you have established breastfeeding. This gives you and baby a chance to bond and for your fierce maternal instinct to kick in.

Get your partner in on it. It’s important to maintain skin to skin contact for the first few days of life. This means that your support team will have to pick up a lot of work- meal prep, doing dishes, cleaning and entertaining any guests that might come around. Your birth partner can also be the skin in skin to skin care whenever you need a break.

Get good at baby wearing. Find a store near you that has trained staff who can help you find a carrier that works for you. Then wear your baby! Bonus points if you are naked under the carrier.

This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.

[1] Bera, Alpanamayi et al. “Effect Of Kangaroo Mother Care On Vital Physiological Parameters Of The Low Birth Weight Newborn”. Indian Journal of Community Medicine 39.4 (2014): 245. Web.

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Self care during pregnancy

Real talk, the pregnant body is a weird place to live. Your skin stretches in ways you have no control over. You leak, if you're lucky it's just increased vaginal discharge and colostrum. If you're unlucky it's peeing a bit when you sneeze. Sometimes you sleep, sometimes you don't, and sometimes you wake up so stiff that you wonder if you've been in a brawl and just don't remember. To say the least, it's a lot to get used to. At 32 weeks pregnant, I'm right in the middle of the third trimester, and the pregnancy weirdness is in full swing.

It's become obvious to me that self care is extremely important, now more than ever. The more I take care of myself, the more comfortable I am with my ever changing body, the more I feel connected to my baby, and the more excited I get about giving birth. So, I wanted to share with you my top 5 favourite self care practices for pregnancy.

1. Positive Self Talk

I’m putting this one first and foremost, because you can’t do any of these other practices without speaking to yourself in a loving voice. Remember that you’re growing a human being! I’ve found it helpful to reframe the changes I’m noticing. For example, instead of thinking that the veins I’ve noticed in my legs are ugly, I remind myself that I have about one and a half times more blood than I used to and my body is working to accommodate it.  Plus, how cool is it that my body was able to make all that extra blood to nourish my baby.

2. Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a simple technique used to increase circulation to your skin and promote lymphatic drainage. Using a coarse bristle brush, and light strokes, you brush from your extremities towards your heart. You can find a tutorial here. I love doing this right before hopping into the shower because my skin feels super soft afterwards and it gives me an opportunity to pay attention to every part of my body and notice how it’s changing. It’s also possible that it may help decrease your chances of getting stretch marks, so that’s a bonus.

3. Self Massage

I’ve added this as part of my shower routine as well, and it doesn’t have to be super complicated. I just take some extra time applying moisturizer, I use coconut oil, after I shower. I usually give my belly, thighs and hips a bit of extra love using a circular motion and light touch. Again, I love this because it gives me time to see how my body is changing. But it also means that I am touching myself with my own hands, getting comfortable with what feels different. This is another opportunity to be really loving to your body, and appreciate everything that it’s able to do to sustain a new life.

Self care doesn't end with birth. Get our FREE guide on how to Beat Mom Fatigue here!

4. Spending Time Naked

I've done this 2 ways. The first is that my shower routine has gotten longer, so I am spending more time naked with myself then. I also take some time to do yoga in the mornings. The mornings work for me because I'm not sleeping well (surprise, surprise) so I'm usually up much earlier than the rest of my house. I can get in a 20 minute prenatal flow without being interrupted. And I have been choosing to do this naked. Yoga is amazing because it connects you with your breath. It brings you into the present moment and it reminds you to be in your body without judgement. I've been enjoying this one, but there are tons out there that are free to access. I love this practice because it is super gentle, it reminds you to put your hands on your belly and to connect with your baby. Being comfortable at least partially naked will become important, because after your baby is born the best place they can be is skin to skin with you, you can find out more about that here. The more comfortable you are, the more you'll want to hang out skin to skin, and the better for both you and your baby. 

5. Exercise

I have been lifting weights for years. So, it was natural for me to want to continue into my pregnancy. Although, I did take a bit of a break during the most exhausting parts of the first trimester. As long as you've been given the ok by your care provider it is safe to continue most exercises through pregnancy. But, it is important to check in. How do you feel while your doing it? How do you feel after? I love lifting because it really shows you what your body is capable of, you can see your own strength. But, you can also see how things shift. I stopped doing pushups  at around 25 weeks and started doing wall pushups because I didn't feel like I could maintain good form. I've recently started feeling the same about deadlifts. And that's ok, because my core is shifting to accommodate a tiny person.

In my second trimester, I also started attending prenatal exercise classes. I highly recommend this because it gives you a chance to connect with other pregnant people. And you get solid guidance from fitness professionals who specialize in pregnancy and postpartum, so they can help you modify appropriately when you need to.

Just remember, you're body is doing a lot right now. You should be impressed! Take the time to thank your body and take care of it. 

This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.